Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bridgeport's Product Shakeup

Jeff's review of Bridgeport beers inspired me to hit the Bridgeport pub in the Pearl for lunch yesterday.  That visit brought home some details of the brewery's recent product shakeup that hadn't yet occurred to me.  We knew that Bridgeport had axed the slow-selling Blackstrap Stout, and introduced two new six-packs: Kingpin Red Ale and Cafe Negro Coffee Porter, that I reviewed last month.  I suppose it had also dawned on me that Cafe Negro had supplanted the porter that was often on tap at the main pub.  But I didn't realize that the tasty Bridgeport ESB was gone.  Not gone like put into a seasonal rotation, just gone.

Apparently I wasn't the only one surprised by this, because as I was sitting near the bar eating lunch, I overheard one of the waitstaff talking to one of the cooks.  The cook needed a pitcher of ESB for one of the recipes in the kitchen.  "No más," said the bartender. "Not ever."  Now, the stout and porter are not a huge loss, but the ESB -- especially fresh on tap or from the firkin -- was a satisfying, sessionable beer, and I'm sad to see it go.  I understand the decision to axe the ESB sixers -- I almost never bought one myself -- but it's too bad it won't be offered at the pub.

Here is a summary of the Bridgeport reshuffle:
  • ESB: gone
  • Stout: gone
  • Porter: replaced by Cafe Negro
  • Ropewalk Brown Ale: gone
  • Haymaker Extra Pale: no longer bottled; still on tap in the Pearl
When I looked chagrined about the loss of the ESB, the hostess yesterday said, "Kingpin is the closest to ESB, if you liked that".  Um.... not really.  It's about 25% stronger and much hoppier -- a different beast entirely.  Haymaker and Ropewalk never really caught on, so you could see why they were canned.  I wish they had kept ESB at the pub instead of Haymaker, but they must know which one they can sell more of in the restaurant.

If you know where to pick up some bottles of Bridgeport ESB, leave a comment.  They didn't have any left at the pub, nor the Safeway across the street.  I'd like to have a last taste.


  1. I actually quite enjoyed the Haymaker. It was a perfect summer beer for me. Sad to see it go :(

  2. I just heard that Sam Orlansky of Lompoc has just accepted a brewing gig at BridgePort.

  3. Bill. Did ya read my latest article? It's happening.... and can't say I didn't warn people. :-0

  4. @Angelo: Interesting news. You or Margaret gonna interview him?

    @Doc: I did read it, but I don't really see the connection. You're right that the big beer conglomerates are trying to catch some of the craft-brewing momentum. But to paint Widmer (for example) with the same brush is off base, and similarly for Bridgeport. I think if they were replacing Kingpin with their ESB you would make the same comment, just to be cantankerous.

  5. This is a good addition to my post, Bill. I regret not detailing some of the lost beers. And, like you, this ESB news is shocking and just terrible. It really signals a shift away from the commitment to cask--always one of the best and most admirable things about the brewery. Whenever I met fellow cask fans, I always mentioned ESB, which the brewery was good about offering on cask. It was one of the best beers in town.

    Kingpin is the "closest" to ESB in the way that Cleveland is the closest to San Francisco when the only other cities you consider are Hong Kong and London. A shame.

  6. @Bill

    The correlation is simple... Although not producing Corporate Marketing crap with cute marketing ideas and tricks, what you are seeing at Bridgeport s the corporate influence at the craft beer level.

    The HefeWeizen comment is very obvious. Calling an American Wheat ale a Hefe Weizen is like calling American Cheese..... a Stilton.

    I will definitely miss Bridgeport's ESB.... It's the only beer I drank from that brewery. Loved it on cask.... even though the brewery has had a problem with chronic short pours.

    Tightrope to current has all been corporately polished tasting beers with a lack of character. Remember Downtown Brown...eck!